Monday, October 10, 2011

Leadership Lessons I've Learned - Part 2.

These are more leadership lessons I’ve learned over the years.

Character is Critical.
Bob Burg says, "All things being equal, people will do business with people they know, like, and trust."  Trust is the key word in that statement.  Your character determines who you are.  Anyone can say that he has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character.  That is why you can never separate a leader’s character from his actions.  I have found that it takes a long time to earn the respect of people, but it only takes a moment to lose their respect.  G. Alan Bernard, president of Mid Park, Inc., stated, “The respect that leadership must have requires that one’s ethics be without question.  A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he stays well clear of the gray areas.” 

Failure is Inevitable
No one's life is an unbroken chain of successes and victories.  We all experience setbacks, defeats, and failures.  In baseball, not even the Hall of Fame players bat 1,000%.  The same is true in leadership - we all make mistakes.  Since failure is something every one of us will, at some time, experience, one of the most important skills you can acquire is the ability to take the negative and turn it into a positive.  Thomas Edison, commenting on one of his MANY failed experiments, said, "Don't call it a failure.  Call it an education!"  Successful leaders learn how to get up after they fall; they learn how to fail forward.  Remember, things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.  The first thing to do when you're faced with any failure is to analyze why it happened. There may be a variety of reasons of failure, many out of your control.

Common Causes of Failure:

- When you don't plan ahead
As the saying goes, "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail."   Moving your organization towards greater growth and health requires a lot of planning.  Noah began building the Ark long before it started to rain!

- When you’re afraid to take risks
The fear of failure can cause failure.  We worry about what others will think of us if we fail, so we don't even try.  Fran Tarkenton says, "Fear sets you up to be a loser."  Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.  You can’t win the game if you don’t first take the field.

- When you give up too soon
Look at the life of Abraham Lincoln.  At 23 he lost his job and his first election.  At 24 he failed at his first business endeavor.  At 25 he was elected to state legislature.  At 27 he had a nervous breakdown.  At 29 he lost another election.  At 34 he was defeated for nomination for Congress.  At 37 he was elected to Congress.  At 39 he lost his re-nomination.  At 40 he was rejected for land officer.  At 45 he was defeated for US Senate.  At 47 he was defeated for nomination for Vice President.  At 49 he was defeated again for US Senate.  At 51 he was elected as President of the United States.  Lincoln never gave up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned - Part 1

     I’ve been doing some reflecting lately on leadership lessons I’ve learned over the years. I’ve been privileged to serve in leadership positions for most of my adult life. I have learned much from mentors and through experience. I will acknowledge that most of what I have learned came from reading and listening to John Maxwell. Over the next few weeks I’ll share these lessons with the hope that they will be of great value to you.

1. Everything rises and falls on leadership
     Most successes can be traced back to competent and effective leadership and most problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership. I believe that one of the greatest problems we have in our nation today, (especially in the political arena) is a significant shortage of men and women who are skilled in leadership.
2. Leadership is influence.
      I learned this lesson while reading “Spiritual Leadership” by J. Oswald Sanders. For better or worse, good or bad; leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Put a group five or six children together in a room and within five minutes you will be able to determine which one will be the leader -- for good or for bad. The same is true in a youth group. It doesn’t take long to determine who to whom everyone else looks and listens. In board meetings, there is one person who is in leadership by position, but it doesn’t take long to determine who the real leader is in the room. It’s the person with the most influence.
3. The test of leadership: “Is anyone following?”
      If you want to know whether or not you're a leader, simply look over your shoulder. John Maxwell says, "He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk." If you have to remind people that you're the leader, then you're not. Leadership is influence and if you're not influencing anybody, it doesn't matter that you think you're the leader -- you're not.
4. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
     I think it is more true to say, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care about him or her as an individual.” People will follow a leader anywhere if they know that he/she cares for them and that he/she truly respects and desires to add value to them. The moment that people sense that the leader does not care, influence and thus leadership have been lost.
5. Leadership can be learned
     The question is often asked, “Are leaders born?” Of course they are. All leaders are born, but they do not come out of their mother’s womb a leader. Leadership skills are learned. Leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus wrote, “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.” The good news is, anybody can learn to be a leader.